So much was achieved in the workshops with Contact Young Company this week; we stretched ourselves silly, we created research results for the most ludicrous studies we could think of and we full on sprinted at each other (eyes closed) in a terrifying trust exercise. However, I wanted to highlight something that really stuck out for me. If you don’t know me;
I am Male. I am 25-30 years old. I am White, British. I am Gay. I am not Disabled.
We’re all familiar with these closed question surveys, the prerequisite to becoming a member of any organisation. The ones in which you make a cross to highlight your age, gender or race. Where the important ‘extra information’ must be summarised into a blank box the size of a bourbon biscuit. These are, unfortunately, a necessary evil in a society driven by ‘understanding’ its consumer. Now although these answers would be pretty useful in a real life ‘Guess Who’ scenario, how much do they actually communicate about a person?
This week CYC was asked to write down all the other things that help define them, anything they could think of. Are you an activist? Are you a rebel? Are you a hobnob dunker? We explored some of the perceptions surrounding these definitions. One member explained that although they can be perceived as arrogant, they would define themselves as insecure and that ‘arrogance’ is simply a symptom. We’re constantly defining people from what we understand at the surface, the mask, particularly when it comes to something as powerful as the word cancer.
I had never thought about a person being defined by their illness before, but like many other things the illness can become the mask. A young person with cancer can suddenly find themselves hidden behind the word. The first thing people see or think about is the cancer, not the individual. This may be most apparent in the medical system, where environments treat the illness and not necessarily the patient or the patient’s needs. The BRIGHTLIGHT research aims to de-mask the young people going through cancer treatment, giving them a voice. It was designed by young people for young people, so the questions asked become relevant. Yes, they are battling cancer but they are also young people with young people needs, fears and wants.
As easy as it is for others to define us, it’s also easy for us to forget ourselves. I imagine that when the world looks at you as a patient, an ill person, you may stumble and fall into that role. I liken it to when people see my sexuality first; occasionally I catch myself playing up to that expectation and find my inner bitchy queen, but not all the time. With this in mind the company, led by Nathanial Hall, took part in an exercise called ‘What You Get For Free’; each member effortlessly and honestly enters the room, introduces themselves to the ‘audience’ and then exits. The rest of the company makes a note of the qualities that person gives off naturally. What mannerisms and personality traits do we get ‘for free’ without even trying, possibly without even knowing. CYC worked to see each other with fresh eyes, looking behind the masks we all create. What a fantastic gift to give; to shine a light on each other and to say, ‘I see you’.
The ‘Guess Who’ information we had gained earlier (the quantitive statistics) paled in comparison to the unique insights we now had (the qualitative data). Because, whilst the surface observations do form small parts of our personality, they do not define us; we are so much more.
I am a herbal tea drinker. I’m nearly always either too hot or too cold. I am an artist. I’m constantly struggling with the idea that I’m an artist. I have a passion for plants. My favourite season changes depending on what season it is. My organisation skills sometimes scare me. I get frustrated at our political system. I want so much to believe in magic...
Mark (Assistant Director)